Moscow, Kiev spar over ceasefire

Nov 14, 2014, 12:18 AM EST
Pro-Russian gunmen look at damaged houses in the North West suburban of Donetsk on November 13, 2014, following last days shelling near the destroyed airport in eastern Ukraine. NATO on November 12, 2014 accused Russia of sending tanks, troops and military hardware to east Ukraine, raising fears of renewed all-out fighting and calling into question the Minsk peace deal.
AFP/Getty Images

Moscow and Kiev accused each other on Thursday of violating a ceasefire and the United States warned Russia the West might punish it further for its "military escalation" of the Ukraine crisis. Reuters writes:

Ukraine accused Russia of sending soldiers and weapons to help separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine launch a new offensive in a conflict that has killed more than 4,000 people.

Russia warned Kiev that any resumption of hostilities against the separatists would be catastrophic for Ukraine.

Increasing violence, truce violations and reports of unmarked armed convoys traveling from the direction of the Russian border have aroused fears that a shaky Sept. 5 truce could collapse.

Russia insists the ceasefire outlined by the Minsk protocol is the only way out of the conflict. It denies sending troops and tanks into Ukraine.

Vehicles apparently used to transport soldiers' bodies have been seen crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border, monitors from Europe's security body have said. The BBC reports:

The OSCE monitors said in one case a vehicle marked "Cargo 200" - Russia's military code for soldiers killed in action - crossed from Russia into Ukraine on Tuesday and later returned.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending its soldiers to fight with separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin denies the allegations. More than 4,000 people have died in the conflict between Ukraine's military and pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Nearly a million people have fled their homes since the fighting started in April, a month after Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula.

The violence in the east has continued despite a ceasefire deal struck in Minsk, Belarus, in September, with both sides accusing each other of shelling and other violations of the agreement.